Tags: Alan Tudyk, Baze Malbus, Bodhi Rook, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Imwe, Darth Vader, Death Star, Diego Luna, Disney, Donnie Yen, Felicity Jones, Galen Erso, Gareth Edwards, Imperial Archives, Jyn Erso, K-2SO, LucasFilm, people of color, Rebellion, representation, Riz Ahmed, Rogue One, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Saw Gerrera, Star Wars, The Empire, The Force Awakens, women of color
Tags: A New Hope, archives, archivists, Death Star, digital archives, digital preservation, Episode II: The Clone Wars, Jedi Archives, Jocasta Nu, Maddy Myers, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Preservica, Randall Jimerson, records management, Rogue One, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Scarif, society of american archivists, Star Wars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a Republic that was usurped by an Empire. In turn, the Empire was felled by a Rebellion. The warring factions, however, made use of the one tool proven to bolster despots as well as topple political regimes: Archives. Yes, the galaxy is populated by space wizards, space Nazis, and useless bounty hunters named Boba Fett, but it’s a known fact that lightsabers can’t rewrite the public record and a blaster can’t provide the essential plans to take down a moon-sized machine of death. For that, and more, you need a space-archivist and a space-archives.
Interestingly enough, two movies in the Star Wars franchise have made use of the archive as an important setting within the narrative. Not only that, they’ve inadvertently highlighted the importance of archives as institutions of memory and accountability while simultaneously showcasing the shortcomings of archives to protect the people they serve. For such a brief amount of time featured on screen given the expansive nature of the franchise, the archive still manages to make a large impact in the ongoing battle between the Jedi and the Sith. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the small yet important relationship between Star Wars and the Archive.
While I’m usually hesitant to mention or even think about the Star Wars prequels for more than a few seconds, it is actually due to the events of the most recent installation of the Star Wars canon, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, that we must travel back to the halcyon days of Episode II: The Clone Wars. A former professor of mine, Randall C. Jimerson, used a pivotal scene in The Clone Wars as an example of the power held within the archives and the power held by archivists. In his Presidential Address to the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in 2005, Jimerson writes:
George Lucas presents a more confident view of archives. In Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi visits the Jedi Temple Archives seeking the location of the planet Kamino. Archivist Madame Jocasta Nu, a frail elderly woman, provides reference assistance, but Kamino does not appear on the archives’ star charts. She concludes:
“I hate to say it, but it looks like the system you’re searching for doesn’t exist.”
“That’s impossible – perhaps the archives are incomplete.”
“The Archives are comprehensive and totally secure, my young Jedi,” came the imposing response, the Archivist stepping back from her familiarity with Obi-Wan and assuming again the demeanor of archive kingdom ruler.
“One thing you may be absolutely sure of: If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” The two stared at each other for a long moment, Obi-Wan taking note that there wasn’t the slightest tremor of doubt in Jocasta Nu’s declaration.
It turns out, by the way, that the existence of the missing planetary system had been erased, in an act of archival sabotage. The Jedi Archives may seem “comprehensive and totally secure” but even this futuristic vision shows the limits of archival control. The archivist’s pose of omniscience is truly an illusion. However, as Eric Ketelaar points out, the fact that Obi-Wan must physically enter the Jedi Archives in his search shows the power of the archivist, who must mediate “between brain and source.” The role of the archivist is crucial and powerful. [Source: SAA]
It’s a lot to glean from a small scene, but the implications of how much power actually exists within the archives remains important to the Empire’s plans. That Obi-Wan even suggests the record may be incomplete is met with immediate reproach by Jocasta Nu. She’s a woman of age and experience, no doubt, and with that age and experience comes a confidence in the institution she serves. We never learn if there are other archivists serving the Republic, but if we’re to assume Jocasta is the lone archivist, then it makes her complacency and confidence far more worrisome.
An ongoing issue among archivists and users is the assumption that archivists are intimately aware of everything they have in their repository. To put it bluntly: that simply isn’t true. Depending on the institution and the circumstances by which the archives were developed, some archivists don’t learn about the majority of what’s held in their stacks until it’s requested by the user. Time management, low funds, and little manpower are the typical culprits, but it’s still worth noting that even in the highly advanced world of the Old Republic, the archives can still be manipulated. If an archivist is unaware of everything under her purview, then it’s easy to see how information vital to the emerging Empire’s elaborate schemes could disappear without incident.
That doesn’t, however, absolve Jocasta of her role in aiding the Empire. Though she’s confident in the security afforded the records, there’s a distinct lack of scrutiny and curiosity in Jocasta that’s endemic throughout the Republic. It is, therefore, it must be true. Why keep searching when we already know the answer? Oddly enough, this has become true of our current political system.
Turning now to Rogue One, we have the story of how the rebels acquired the plans to the Death Star that jump-started the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. The climax of the film occurs on the planet Scarif where the records and activities of the Empire are housed. There, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and K-2S0 infiltrate the facility to retrieve the plans knowing that Jyn’s father, the Death Star’s architect, left a means by which the planet destroyer could be stopped.
From an archival perspective, there’s a brilliant look at the Scarif facility by David Portman at Preservica. As a digital archivist, he breaks down all the ways the Empire failed at records management, which all but led to their downfall. Of the many errors, Portman cites:
– The failure to replicate critical data to a remote location, preferably a galaxy far far away, which is not effected by a similar death star event
– An authentication system that allowed the hand of a dead archivist to be used to gain entry (not generally recommended by the archiving community)
– No encryption at rest – physical asset could be removed and re-read on another device, without even the need for the dead archivist’s hand
– No metadata to prove the provenance of the plans – how could you be sure you were looking at the right death star plans?
– A file format policy that relied on the Evil Empire and Rebel Alliance using the same software [Source: Preservica]
As Maddy Myers points out in her article covering Preservica’s critique, the blog post is done very tongue-in-cheek, but still manages to point out the importance of digital preservation and the work of archivists to protect born-digital records. That and the Empire seems to have learned nothing from the system they exploited back in Episode II. The assumption remains the same: how could anything possibly go wrong since we’re all super powerful and awesome?
As in the film, so in reality, the archive has long been used as a tool to legitimate tyrannical regimes. Control of knowledge means control of society and powers such as the Empire always go for the public record in order to justify and perpetuate their existence. They also tend to be record hoarders, meticulously documenting every action and decision as more proof of power. That the Empire chose to store all of their records in one facility effectively plays into the paranoia of an illegitimate regime making damn sure no one has a chance to dethrone them. If the knowledge is secure, then so are we. Fitting, then, that the unraveling of the Empire would originate from a monument to their inflated sense of power.
Tags: 2016 Election, aftermath, anxiety, Cory O'Brien, Hillary Clinton, Langston Hughes, Milk and Honey, poetry, politics, Rupi Kaur, Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes
Tags: Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Alia Shawkat, Audrey Plaza, Bokeem Woodbine, broadway, Christopher Jackson, Comedy Central, Dave Grohl, Derek Waters, Drunk History, Founding Fathers, Funny or Die, George Washington, Hamilton, Hamilton Musical, History, James Monroe, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Gagliardi, Michael Cera, Questlove, Thomas Jefferson, Tony Hale
I’m not saying Drunk History should pack it’s bags and wish us well, but the most recent episode of the hilarious show where comedians drunkenly recall historical events that are later reenacted, flubs and all, felt like an unspoken completion of whatever weird journey Derek Waters and company started not so long ago.
If you’ll recall, in the long-long-ago of 2007, Drunk History began as roughly five minute shorts for the website Funny or Die. The first of those shorts featured actor Mark Gagliardi drunkenly recounting the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Reenacting this masterfully inebriated tale were Michael Cera as Hamilton, Jake Johnson as Burr, and Ashley Johnson as Elizabeth Schuyler-Hamilton.
The video was charming and hilarious at the time and remains so, but it really highlights how far Drunk History has come since its web series/YouTube days. The camera quality, set design, and the costuming are the epitome of a home movie production. Most likely this was out of necessity, though one could argue strongly for the intentional use of a low budget aesthetic simply because it’s funnier. Regardless, the videos became popular and because of the viral nature of the internet it became clear to the decision-making people at Comedy Central that there was something in Drunk History worth developing.
Fast forward almost a decade and Drunk History has now devoted an entire episode to Alexander Hamilton as recalled by the adorkable writer, lyricist, and former lead of the Tony award winning Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Recorded while Miranda was performing in the show (his hair is still long), the episode spans Hamilton’s life and eventual death in the infamous duel. There are a few new tidbits of information such as the ship bringing Hamilton to America catching fire, which gave me my favorite quote of the episode (“Sick ass Hamilton on a flaming ship!”), but for anyone familiar with the musical and its additional material it’s a very by-the-book half an hour of television. The draw of the episode is, obviously, drunk Lin-Manuel Miranda and the reenactment.
I can say, without question, that Alia Shawkat and Audrey Plaza killed it as Hamilton and Burr respectively. Both play up the arrogance and swagger of their historical analogs, but the hilarity comes from how much fun they’re having miming Miranda’s stories for the camera. Filling out the cast are Bokeem Woodbine as George Washington, Tony Hale as James Monroe, David Wain as Thomas Jefferson, and Dave Grohl as a guy who happens to be there. Hey, Dave Grohl!
Again, it’s a staggering comparison between the original video and the show as it is now; full on battlefield engagements filmed like mini-movies, sets that look like they might have attempted filming in Independence Hall, and costumes that come from a bigger budget and production value rather than a Halloween costume store. I did like that they made a callback to the first video by mirroring the exchange of letters between Hamilton and Burr, but overall the episode is bigger, brighter, bolder, and other b-word adjectives!
Lin-Manuel Miranda has been having a banner couple of years and the future only seems to be getting brighter for him. The core of his character, however, remains genuinely sincere, passionate, and extremely humble. He’s also adorkable to the nth degree, which makes him and the episode that much more endearing to watch. The special appearances by the Roots’ Questlove and Chris Jackson (original George Washington in Hamilton) on FaceTime, including a West Wing quote from Miranda to Jackson, speak to the man’s indefatigable joy and unrelenting humor. The affection he has for his friends, music, and the stories he’s become custodian to make the boozy interview yet another bullet point on the “List of Reasons Lin-Manuel and I Would Be Best Friends” we’ve all been making in our heads…or writing on random notepads with little hearts, stars, and Lisa Frank stickers everywhere.
Tags: Batman, books, declaration, education, empathy, experience, future, interesting times, letter, nephew, proverbs, reading, The Simpsons
Yes, Harrison, that name will be sticking around and by the time you’re old enough to read this, I assume I’ll have called you it enough times that it won’t be weird or embarrassing. But who cares what other people think, right? Right? Right.
Oh, baby boy, you’re only four days old as I’m writing this and I honestly don’t know how the next fours years of your life are going to be. I thought I’d be proud that you would only know a black man and white woman as the President of the United States for the first few years of your life. Now, whenever you look at those God-awful history books they’ll likely try to alter, you’re going to see the face of a neon cheeto smiling smugly at you like he owns the world. He doesn’t, sweetie. He just thinks he does. Trust me when I say, I will and have spent those four years pushing back in every way I can because you deserve better than what this country gave you. You deserve enlightenment, harmony, and peace of mind. You deserve an education. You deserve the freedom to express yourself. You deserve love, sympathy, and empathy in abundance. You deserve the simple basics of humanity. But you have to give it back as well.
You’re white, sweetheart. Shocker, I know. You’re white and you’re a boy/teen/man/gender fluid/undefined (whenever you’re reading this, pick the one that applies), which means you’re still going to have more chances to succeed than your friends in school who are of a different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. It may not seem like it, but the system you were born into currently favors you above anyone else. People much smarter and braver than your Auntie Sammy are trying to fix that, but progress is always slow so I can’t rightly say this paragraph will be irrelevant by the time you’re reading and comprehension lessons start. I like to err on the side of caution and assume the worst. By now you probably know that and find it to be an endearing quality. Don’t roll your eyes…unless it’s something your grandfather said, then roll away!
The point is you’re going to have a lot more privileges by virtue of the sex and race you were born compared to others. This means you’re obligated to do the following things:
First, listen to voices that aren’t your own. Talk to people who aren’t like you. There is so much more to be gained when you offer a sympathetic ear. We’re social creatures, humans, and we’re more inclined to talk and share our experiences, our knowledge, and our wisdom. Trust me, sweetie, I’ve learned more by listening to people on my podcast (which I’m sure is hugely successful!) than any previous endeavor or project. My music, reading lists, movies and television preferences have all been influenced or altered because of the people I’ve talked to and I intend to keep expanding those horizons because it’s the only way to grow.
Secondly, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to educate yourself. Teachers and school administrations have their own agendas, their own quotas to meet, and that can sour you towards the institutions of higher learning, but believe me when I say that the greatest investment of your time will be in developing your mind. And I’m not just talking about reading a lot of books (we’ll get to that), I’m talking about engaging with the written word; questioning everything and critically thinking your way through the loftier questions. You may not always find the answers you were looking for, but getting there is half of the adventure. The other half is writing a dissertation, but we’re not there yet so we’ll put that on the backburner for now.
Above all else, though, you need to read about the world outside of yourself. It’s easy to retreat and find everything and everyone that’s like you, but it’s important to read about people who aren’t like you, places you’re never been, and things that are completely foreign to you. Read every genre of fiction, non-fiction, plays, and poetry. Read the classics, essays, comic books, and biographies. Read the dictionary. Seriously, read the dictionary. And get a thesaurus. The more words you have available to you the better. Like I said about listening, learning and self-education will do wonders for your ability to understand and empathize with others. It also gives you the confidence and wherewithal to engage others with whom you disagree. Words are powerful weapons, my dear, and I intend to make sure you’re suitably armed.
Thirdly, experience the world. Reading – and probably video games – will only get you so far, my love. The rest is gained by stepping outside your door. Go to the theater, museums, arts and music festivals. Do extra-curricular activities like drama, debate, and one of those sports-ball things. Play an instrument. If you’re anything like the rest of our family you may give up after a year or so, but at least you can say you tried. Eat foods you’ve never eaten before, but don’t rush it since it may take a while before you’re beyond the peanut butter and jelly sandwich only phase. Go hiking, rock climbing, fossil hunting, anything your heart desires as long as it brings you closer to appreciating what you have and what the world has to offer. The more you engage, the more you’ll care about keeping this ball of rock, water, and gas spinning.
Lastly, and most importantly, use your education, your experiences, and your empathy to elevate those who struggle to make their voices heard. Be an ally by giving everyone a chance to contribute and speak up for those who are being drowned out by the din of ignorance. That’s where you can do the most good. And don’t expect a thank you for it. No one is going to throw you a parade (maybe your mom and grandmother) for being decent. Just do what needs to be done because it’s the right thing to do.
I know it’s a lot to take in, sweetie. It seems unfair and overwhelming that this burden is being placed on you, but worry not because you come from good stock. Your parents, grandparents, and I are resilient and I firmly believe you will be/are too.
And with that, I leave you with some simple truths that should carry you through the dark and the good times:
- You are and will always be loved.
- It’s okay to cry and be sad sometimes and you can always talk to me when you’re feeling blue.
- Hamilton and Les Misérables are the greatest musicals of all time. Period. Don’t fight me on this.
- Apples and peanut butter are the best combo snack ever.
- Grades are important, but not so important that you drive yourself crazy.
- Han shot first.
- Sometimes the movie is better than the book. It’s rare, but it happens.
- The Simpsons was the greatest cartoon of all time until Season 14.
- Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.
Tags: 2016 Election, love trumps hate, reactions
Good Lord, I don’t even know where to start, but here goes nothing.
If you’ve never looked at the “About” page on this site, then you might be interested in the origins of the name “Maniacal Geek.” When I was in graduate school, I was writing a paper on women during the American Revolution and one of the articles I read was about the marginal conversations of John Adams with the works of Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley). Separated by an ocean, there wasn’t a lot of immediacy where the mail was concerned, so Adams didn’t have the luxury of telling Wollstonecraft, in real time, how he felt about her ideas on the French Revolution, Democracy, or the status of women. Instead, he wrote in the margins of her printed works, engaging with her ideas by writing down his own reactions, thoughts, and diatribes. One piece of marginalia stood out the most within the article wherein Adams had written, “Maniac! keep within your Limits!”
When I saw that quote, it stuck with me. I wasn’t shocked considering the era of history I was studying, but there was such vehemence in those words that I couldn’t rightly ignore them. Here was a man of his time, one of the Founding Fathers, basically telling a woman that she had no place talking about politics, that her “limits,” her sphere of influence, was in the home raising children and whatnot. Going beyond those limits was a social infraction Adams couldn’t overlook.
So when I was coming up with ideas for a blog a few years back, I wanted something that could be relatively broad and yet speak to the less than better angels that I tend to follow. I’m also a sucker for a maniacal laugh now and again, so the name Maniacal Geek stuck. The intention was to give myself room enough to write about everything that interested me (which is a lot), without limiting myself to one genre or medium of discussion. I rant, I analyze, I opine, and I rationalize all for the sake of processing the world around me. No boundaries, no limits. Take that, Mr. Adams!
And yet, in light of the recent results of the 2016 Presidential election, I find myself questioning if I ever did that at all. Did I push back enough? Did I call out atrocious behavior enough? Did I fight? I can’t confidently say yes, and that hurts because I wasn’t raised to sit on the sidelines. I was taught to stand up for people when they needed help. I was taught to speak my mind regardless of authority figures. I was taught to have empathy and sympathy for those whose lives were not my own. I don’t know if I’m a leader, but I’m a damn good champion for a cause.
Going forward, then, means being that champion without hesitation. Compromise doesn’t mean shit if the other side has only shown open disdain and hatred while daring to ask that we work towards “unity.” Acts of racism, bigotry, misogyny, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia will not be tolerated nor will they be normalized. As a white woman, it’s my responsibility to make sure my actions speak louder now more than ever. I know who broke the world and I don’t get to ignore it. I assumed solidarity where there was none and it’s on me and mine to fix it. So that’s what we’ll do.
That’s the point of this article, Dear Readers. I want and need you to know I’m on your side, but I don’t expect you to take it on faith or trust me. I haven’t earned the right to ask that of you. Just know that I have no intention of going anywhere. I may just be a woman writing about comic books now and then, or a host voicing her opinion on a small podcast, but you’d be amazed at what kind of power is found in the places you least expect.
Love and Kisses,
Tags: 100Days100Women, American Revolution, benevolent sexism, citations, Elizabeth Blackwell, erasure, fluid art, History, idea vs reality, inktober, Livia, Merit Ptah, Murasaki Shikibu, narrative, passion project, Poly Styrene, post-modern, research, Rori de Rien, Sybil Ludington, Tarenorerer, women's history
Tags: Critical Role, DLC, downloadable content, Geek & Sundry, I Know That Voice, Jennifer Hale, performance matters, SAG-AFTRA, Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, secondary compensation, strike, union, video games, voice actors
In case this is the first time you’ve ever read one of my articles or listened to That Girl with the Curls podcast, let me tell you that I have a tremendous love of cartoons and animation in general. I was on a steady diet of them as a child and I indulge myself in them regularly as an adult. Part of the fun of cartoons is picking out the voice actors involved because, if we’re being honest, its those voices, those performances we remember most. The last five years have seen a rise invoice actor visibility thanks to social media and comic book conventions branching out into all aspects of geek/nerd culture, giving all of us the opportunity to exclaim to many of these actors that they were the voices of our childhood. I can say that I’ve personally made that statement to many of the voice actors I’ve had the opportunity to meet. I smile, they smile, there’s so much smiling!
The point, though, is that we’re invested in voice actors because they’ve managed to, on the one hand, reinvigorate our nostalgia or, on the other hand, excite us based on a recent performance. And because they’ve worked that magic on us, we turn that emotional investment into actual money, paying to meet them at conventions, take a photo, or just buying something they happen to be involved in because we want to support their work.
So it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to extend that same love and devotion to voice actors involved with video games, mostly because the overlap is pretty substantial. Odds are, you’ve finished a video game that may have had some iffy game play, but still managed to win you over with its characters. Or, miracle of miracles, you’ve sat through 60 hours of phenomenal game mechanics, stunning visuals, on top of falling in love with the characters involved in the story. It’s true that the writing contributes a lot, but it’s the voice actors that seal the deal and make those characters memorable.
I say all of this because, as of Friday, October 21st, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have been on strike against 11 video game companies. As sited on the SAG-AFTRA release statement, the actors are on strike, after 19 months of negotiations, to rectify their treatment under an outdated contract that keeps the actors from earning secondary compensation as well as demanding more transparency from producers in interactive media regarding the information provided to voice actors prior to acceptance of the job. Voice actors are frequently kept in the dark about the project, role, and the nature of the performance required by the studio, which prevents them from making an informed and meaningful decision about the roles they take. If on-camera actors can curate their careers based on jobs taken, why not voice actors?
As for the secondary compensation, there’s a great breakdown of what SAG-AFTRA is asking for and the impact it would actually have on the game industry. To put it bluntly, what the voice actors are asking for – additional bonuses for every two million copies, or downloads sold, or unique subscribers to on-line games only, with a cap at 8 million units/subscribers – would barely make a dent in the overall profits seen by the companies. Considering a game like Grand Theft Auto V made $2.4 billion, on unit sales alone, the bonuses based on the cast size of 840 with the eight million cap only adds up to roughly $3.5 million in secondary compensation. That’s not even factoring in additional profits made off of downloadable content (DLC) or special collector’s edition. So, yeah, not exactly breaking the bank.
The backlash against the strike, however, has been focused on framing the voice actors as greedy and ungrateful, which seems to be the standard operation for most companies when money is on the line. Believe me, my family has gone through its share of Boeing strikes, so I know how this can go down. What’s more disheartening are the gamers/consumers who appear to agree with the producers, calling out voice actors for making a big deal out of nothing because their job is the “easiest” part of game development. There’s also a “meh” mentality to the issue and how it’s being reported on, as if the problem will blow over eventually, and speculation on whether or not consumers would even notice if voice actors were taken out of the equation.
As a blanket objection to consumers and journalists, Jennifer Hale aptly states:
Let me hear the sound you’d make if you were slashed in half by a sword? How about you’re struck in the heart by a bullet? How does your throat feel? … I have friends who have had to have surgery because of the vocal stress they incurred in the session and they’ve been out of work for months. [Source: NPR]
In one go, Hale has pointed out that not only is voice acting a skill, it’s also an intensive and strenuous job. If you’re putting your all into the performance, your voice could, and probably will, suffer, which could prevent you from getting work down the line if medical attention is needed. And if the game you sacrificed your voice for sells, shouldn’t you be entitled to some money since it was your voice that contributed to the overall package that is the game? Again, on-camera actors negotiate back-end deals all the time – getting a piece of the merchandising or a straight up bonus from the studio if the movie performs well. That’s on top of pretty high salaries depending on what type of movie they’re working on, so why aren’t voice actors given the same consideration? A lackluster performance in a movie can kill the box office numbers just as easily as a lackluster performance can kill a video game’s enjoyability. Both can live or die by word of mouth, so the better the performance the better the sales.
And if you’d like a visceral example of how deeply a voice actor can affect you, go watch Critical Role on Geek & Sundry. I’m not kidding. The entire cast of players is made up of voice actors and they manage to, without visual prompting, animatics, or blocking, deliver nuanced and tremendously affective performances. If that doesn’t make you realize how valuable voice actors are to storytelling, I don’t know what will.
If you have the opportunity, please go on Twitter to show your support with #PerformanceMatters. Even if it’s just sharing an article or showing solidarity, I know the actors will appreciate it. And if you have the time, go check out I Know That Voice, or listen to me interview some voice actors on That Girl with the Curls Podcast!